Several weeks ago, I wrote about the New Beginnings phase of life when you’re transitioning into your new world– whatever change you’ve gone through. Referring to Bill Bridges Map of Change, we looked back at going from Endings and traveling through The Gap and then climbing up on the bank of the other side of that river to the New World. While I’ve experienced these changes after the break up of a forty-year marriage, you may have had a different experience like a move, job change, retirement, or a realization that you needed a different life.
What I’ve realized in the past year since I started the adventure of online dating, is that if I’m not careful, I’ll carry my old ideas into the new world. I haven’t dated since I was 22-years-old. At that time, I was just barely out from under my parents’ roof and had only lived away from my hometown for two years. Since that time, I adjusted to life with my spouse and did the accommodating that you do in marriage. After all those years together, you begin to hear their voice, their opinion about every decision you make–whether as a couple or individually; that means everything from choices about the new sofa to how many channels or streaming services you need.
For folks who have a major job change–either by choice or by force, you may keep the voice of your former supervisor in your head. Years ago when I was fired from a job in a small Mom and Pop clinical research company, it was hard to let go of their critical voices when I moved on. It took a while– maybe a good two years, to shake off the trauma of their negative influence and have a more accurate view of my work. I had to keep reminding myself, “You’re not at The Research Company,” especially when I was called in to meet with my new supervisor; I had to let go of responding as if I was in the former situation.
Now, I have to remind myself as I navigate this New Beginnings phase that I don’t have to follow the same rules, the same limitations that I placed on myself as a young woman. I’ve had enough life experience, enough time exploring the world and who I am, that I don’t need to limit myself by old voices. I have to listen closely for when those voices return and challenge their accuracy. They may start with these words that are anchored deep inside:
“I’m the type of person who . . .”
“We’re the type of couple . . .”
“I’m from a family that . . .”
Those ways of thinking may have served me back then but may limit me at this point in life.
Over the past months of online dating, I’ve viewed many photos and read many profiles of men on several sites. It’s been an interesting process in that it’s made me look more closely at who I am and where I want my life to go. I keep asking myself, “What do you really want now, Connie?” “What is essential?”
Those same questions apply to others’ facing New Beginnings– no matter what the change. We have a limited amount of time– whether we’re 22 or 66, and we don’t want to waste any of it. But sometimes, I get so tired of the wait, the searching for a new life partner, that I find myself potentially accommodating that person and minimizing what I really want. For example, while I’ve worked hard in the past months to improve my physical fitness and reduce my weight, I may disregard his lack of activity if I feel there’s enough other positives. While no person has every quality– myself included, there are ones that are less negotiable. At this point in life, health and making physical fitness a priority is especially important to counter potential health problems.
Since things have opened up and dancing has resumed, I realize, more than ever, how much I love to dance; I feel more like my whole self when I’m dancing. A guy who was a match in many ways but said he didn’t dance, asked me if that was a ‘deal breaker.’ I thought through that question long and hard. I reversed the question to something he was passionate about: collecting classic cars. Would it be a ‘deal breaker’ if I showed no interest in participating in that activity with him? While we could do things separately, and some of that is healthy, time is limited; If we want to be with that person, how much would not sharing the thing they’re passionate about impact the relationship?
As it turned out, it wasn’t that the guy couldn’t dance, it was that he shouldn’t dance due to past injuries that he gradually revealed. Ultimately, I said it was a deal breaker and he told me I had his number if I ever stopped dancing! LOL!
What I saw from that experience was that if I’m not careful, I’ll compromise something that may be really important for me. I told my therapist that I don’t want to be ‘tamped down’ into something smaller to be a match for a guy; I can’t be less than who I should be. I need to fly–to spread my wings in new directions whether it’s the soaring of an eagle, or the gentle flight of a butterfly between the flowers.
Now that I’m trying to figure out how to be in this new world, I ponder how it is to take flight. I have been hesitant of heights–whether literal or figurative; that comes out of my fear of falling. Every other juncture I’ve had in life that required major change came with a feeling of fear of the unknown. It required moving across the threshold, bearing the awkwardness of those first steps, keeping on until the steps became more familiar, and finally— making those steps more skillful, more of my own style.
I consider how eagles learn to fly, what they must go through in order to soar. In looking at resources on the internet, I was drawn to the description of the process on animals.mom.com
Young eagles learn how to fly from their parents and by practicing near their nest. One of the main ways they practice is by spreading their wings and jumping to a nearby branch.
Watching an adult fly and copying all the moves — taking off, flapping, gliding, landing, and perching — helps the young birds get it right. Without a safe place to learn and lessons in flight, an eagle won’t learn how to fly.
This week my friend invited me to join her to hear a band playing last night at a local restaurant. I agreed– since she would know the crowd and with her outgoing personality, she would help me in the new situation. But on Friday, she sent a text to say she had a change in schedule and would be getting there later. She suggested that two other friends from our dancing group may go and I could hang with them. Both of them texted that they wouldn’t be going. Once my friend learned that they weren’t going, she texted two women she knew would be there–introducing them to me and sharing our pictures, asking them to watch for me.
The ‘old me’ would have bowed out, too hesitant to go into a group where I knew no one. While I’m a ‘friendly Southerner,’ talkative–there is a streak of shyness that’s remained since I was a girl. I would have opted to stay home in the comfort of the familiar, save the energy required to step out and take a risk.
Finding your way in a new world requires awkward first steps. I think of baby eagles and the way their mother prepares them for flight. In time, the mother doesn’t push them from the nest— per ornithologists, but she increases the risks. She doesn’t keep bringing the food to the nest; Instead, she delivers it at a distance from that comfortable home base. The fledgling has to venture further to get his meal, has to take a bigger chance for that reward.
I took the risk last night and showed up at that restaurant in Cary. The host ushered me to the area near where the band was setting up. I looked for the women whom I’d seen in the pictures that my friend sent. Another woman, who wasn’t from the pictures, knew who I was searching for and said they hadn’t arrived. She offered that I could join her table. I made a self-effacing remark about ‘crashing their party,’ thanked her, and slid into the chair. I was so appreciative of her graciousness and we soon settled into conversation. She introduced me to the others and in time, one of the women came over and said I should join them, free-styling to the band’s opening song. At first, I held back–so used to partner dancing, uncomfortable out there on my own. But then on the second song, I pushed myself to join them. They’d been welcoming of me; I needed to let go and just be in the moment with them.
Later, after the band had been playing a while, some dancers I knew came in and I danced with a partner– like I’m used to. My friend arrived and she introduced me to more of her friends; How I appreciated her exuberant, not-shy, extroverted personality! One of the guys she introduced me to is a very good West Coast Swing dancer. I’d been too intimidated by his skill to approach him at the dance venue. But when I was included in their conversation, getting to know him and seeing his friendly, non-superior-dancer attitude, I felt comfortable. The next thing I knew, he asked me to dance and I found myself having fun, dancing with him in the middle of the crowd. One more barrier was demolished by that conversation in a different venue–a place where he didn’t have a line of women waiting to dance with him!
It was almost midnight when I left last night, the band finishing their final set. How full the night had been with stepping into that new place, navigating the uncomfortable, making new friends around the table, breaking a barrier in my dancing. My friend, like a mama eagle, had offered me food– but it was just a bit out of reach; I had to fly with my fledgling wings to taste that reward. All I needed was there; I just had to trust enough to move out from the comfort of my familiar nest.
My wish for you today, is that whatever New Beginnings you’re navigating, that you’ll go forth–scared but trusting, wanting that tasty reward enough to flap your fledging wings and take flight.